Exit Sign: Brooklyn Bridge, southbound at Cadman Plaza West.
The hot dogs and pastrami will be halal when the Brooklyn Diner opens this week in Dubai.
This, the third location and the only one outside of New York, will will have the same neon signs, Ebbets Field mural, and brass plaques with names of American celebrities and sport figures as the original. Noodle kugel will be served with the pot roast and egg creams will be made with Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. They’ll still be using challah in the diner’s French toast, but it will be called egg bread, and the kosher pickles will be referred to as ‘sour dills.’
You don’t want to be too Jewish in Dubai.
Brooklyn was never just an address.
It’s always existed in the cultural imagination as a mythical sort of place. It’s the borough of film clichés, like the wise-cracking street-smart Army recruit—every movie platoon has one; the broad Jewish parody of Woody Allen; the working class strivers of Saturday Night Fever. It’s the hip hop-flavored neighborhoods of Jay Z, Biggie, and Lil’ Kim; and the notorious in-your-face bellicosity of native sons from Norman Mailer to Mike Tyson and Alan Dershowitz.
The Brooklyn of today has ascended in its cultural reimagining as the essence of cool—edgy, artsy, and smart. It’s become the locus of the urban artisan food renaissance; an edgy-artsy-smart meeting of old and new, tradition and technology, rustic and haute.
An artisan food scene, especially in an urban setting, is inherently elitist. Purveyors come from the young, educated creative classes, and consumers need deep pockets and sophisticated, well-traveled palates. Somehow, the movement has managed to trade on the legendary guts and grit of the Brooklyn mythology to bestow integrity and authenticity on their products. And it’s playing well outside of the borough.
There’s the Brooklyn Diner in Dubai, the Brooklyn Pizzeria in Istanbul, and the Brooklyn Parlour Jazz Bar in Toyko. The Brooklyn Brewery is the biggest exporter of craft beer to the world, in no small part because of the name. You can buy Brooklyn Brine pickles at Williams-Sonoma stores, and at the posh Dean and Deluca stores you’ll find chocolate from the Mast Brothers, the crown princes of bearded hipsterdom.
Some of us are old enough to remember when Brooklyn was just a borough across the bridge from Manhattan.
The trip to Brooklyn was a subway ride through time and tax brackets. You left behind the glamor of Manhattan for Do The Right Thing-style open-necked Italian neighborhoods, and Russian immigrants strolling the Coney Island boardwalk. You had egg creams and slices at pizza joints or dinner at your grandma’s on Flatbush Avenue, which was pretty much why anyone went to Brooklyn anyway.
Brooklyn has always been branded in the world’s imagination for one thing or another. And now, Brooklyn is a lifestyle brand..